Mark Driscoll doesn’t want you to study the Bible

April 28, 2013 in Theology · 123 comments

Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll recently caused another brouhaha with his views about gen­der roles. The short ver­sion of this lat­est con­tro­versy is that he com­pared nag­ging wives to water tor­ture. You can watch the offend­ing seg­ment here.

But are we really sur­prised by this sort of thing from Driscoll? By now it should seem par for the course: we know where he stands on these issues, we know that he states his posi­tions in less-than-eloquent ways, we know he char­ac­ter­izes the posi­tions of his oppo­nents in less-than-charitable terms and we know that none of this is likely to change.

But in the rush to point out yet another misog­y­nis­tic state­ment from Driscoll, a per­haps even more trou­bling state­ment from him was over­looked. In the open­ing of his ser­mon on Eph­esians 5.22–33 and the sub­ject of wives sub­mit­ting to their hus­bands, Driscoll says:

“What does that mean in the Greek, Pas­tor Mark?” You can always tell a rebel­lious evan­gel­i­cal. They do word stud­ies. They try to go to the Greek and fig­ure out if it per­haps means some­thing else. I’ll just read, OK.

Really? Rebel­lious evan­gel­i­cals do word stud­ies? And sub­mis­sive evan­gel­i­cals don’t? They just meekly accept the “plain mean­ing” of the text? So if I choose to dig deeper into the Bible, to seek out the orig­i­nal mean­ing of Greek and Hebrew words, to study the gram­mar and con­text and cul­ture of a pas­sage — if I ques­tion assump­tions and I really study the Bible — then I’m rebel­lious? In Driscoll’s world I must be: I’ve cho­sen to think for myself and in doing so I’ve stepped out from under the author­ity God, the author­ity of the Church and, worst of all, the author­ity of Pas­tor Mark.

But wait a minute, doesn’t Driscoll have a degree in exeget­i­cal the­ol­ogy from West­ern Sem­i­nary in Port­land, Ore­gon? Yes, he does, but West­ern isn’t exactly rec­og­nized for a robust empha­sis on the Bib­li­cal lan­guages. In fact, it seems that at West­ern, one can get an M.A. in exeget­i­cal the­ol­ogy with­out learn­ing Greek or Hebrew at all! It’s hardly sur­pris­ing given Driscoll’s edu­ca­tion, back­ground and min­istry “suc­cesses” that intel­lec­tual engage­ment with Bib­li­cal and the­o­log­i­cal issues is down­played and discouraged.

What’s really going on in Driscoll’s state­ment is a flip­pant dis­missal of all dis­cus­sions regard­ing the mean­ings of κεφαλή (head) and ὑποτάσσω (to sub­mit) — mean­ings upon which much of the egalitarian/complimentarian debate hinges. If you’re going to teach on a con­tro­ver­sial pas­sage that has wide-reaching impli­ca­tions for how we lead our lives as Chris­tians today, shouldn’t you want to under­stand and con­vey the exeget­i­cal details of that pas­sage? Driscoll not only doesn’t want to explore the gram­mar and con­text of this pas­sage, he goes so far as to encour­age you not to do so yourself!

Iron­i­cally, ὑποτάσσω may mean some­thing far worse than Driscoll would lead you to believe. Like­wise, the dis­cus­sions regard­ing the pre­cise mean­ing of κεφαλή and the con­text and cul­ture of the first-century Greco-Roman world con­veyed in Eph­esians are also fas­ci­nat­ing and com­plex and are far from the black-and-white sim­plic­ity Driscoll espouses. As with much of the Bible, sim­ply say­ing “I’ll just read, OK” does lit­tle to elu­ci­date the crit­i­cal issues at hand.

The anti-intellectualism that Driscoll encour­ages is destroy­ing the church. Ask­ing Chris­tians to abro­gate the life of the mind in favor of blind “sub­mis­sion” to a par­tic­u­lar doc­trine — espe­cially when that doc­trine is itself divi­sive and destruc­tive — is tan­ta­mount to form­ing a cult: don’t think for your­self, don’t inves­ti­gate what I’m about to say, just accept what I’m going to tell you because it’s in the Bible and the Bible is God’s Word. Is that the mes­sage of Chris­tian­ity? Is that what Christ asks us to do in order to fol­low him?

Any­time some­one encour­ages you to not inves­ti­gate, to not dig deeper, to not seek out the truth, that’s a sure sign they’re hid­ing some­thing and that the only means they have for retain­ing their power is to con­vince you to not ques­tion that power. The only anti­dote to such an abuse of power is truth. For­tu­nately, Chris­tian­ity has some­thing to say about truth: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8.32).

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